Saturday, September 20, 2014

McCain Challenges Gen Dempsey and Hagel on Syria|16-Sep-14

McCain | 16 Sep 2014
During a Senate hearing this morning on how to combat ISIS, Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) pressed Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey on how the U.S. would respond if Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's air forces attacked U.S.-backed moderate Syrian forces.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Warning Intelligence Update: ISIS Attacks Baghdad

The original from: Institute for the Study of War

by Ahmed Ali and the ISW Iraq Team

On September 18, the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) launched a complex attack likely targeting the Adala (Justice) Prison in Baghdad’s Kadhmiyah neighborhood in northern Baghdad. According to the Baghdad Operations Command, the attack was intended to break into the prison but was foiled. ISIS also launched another attack in Baghdad’s Iskan neighborhood that likely targeted the offices of the Iraqi Shi’a political group and militia, the Badr Organization.

The Attack

ISIS’s attack included mortar rounds, Vehicle-Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (VBIEDs), and Suicide Borne Improvised Explosive Devices (SVBIEDs). The mortars were likely launched from the areas of the northern Baghdad belt including Taji. Fourteen mortar rounds reportedly targeted the Adala prison and in the vicinity of Kadhmiyah, and other mortar rounds fell in the Greaat area in northern Baghdad which is adjacent to Kadhmiyah. An SVBIED also targeted the prison, resulting in the death of three people and injury of 10. Two attackers who had intended to attack the prison while wearing an explosive vest (SVEST) were arrested. Another VBIED exploded in a restaurant area in Kadhmiyah that resulted in the death of four people and the injury of 11 people. Iraqi police also defused yet another VBIED that was also found in Kadhmiyah. As a result of these attacks, security forces raised alert levels in Kadhmiyah. Security Forces also ordered commercial shops to be closed in the predominantly Iraqi Sunni neighborhood of Adhamiyah. Adhamiyah lies just across the Aaima bridge from Kadhmiyah. Elsewhere in Baghdad, a VBIED detonated in the Iskan area in western Baghdad. The VBIED targeted the office of the Badr Organization, a Shi’a militia organization that has taken a leading role in directing Iraqi Shi’a militia operations to counter ISIS. 


This attack is very significant. It is the first infantry-like, complex, and penetrating attack in Baghdad city by ISIS since the fall of Mosul in June of this year. ISIS likely carried out the attack to release some of the pressure it is facing as a result of the recent U.S. air campaign targeting its positions. The attack also signifies that, despite the heightened defenses of Baghdad in the aftermath of the fall of Mosul, ISIS is still able to carry out attacks in an area where it is unlikely to have active sleeper cells given Kadhmiyah’s predominantly Iraqi Shi’a demographic. The mortars were likely launched from Taji due to ISIS’s historical presence in the area and its ongoing activities there.

The attacks will not likely divert great deal of resources of the ISF and Iraqi Shi’a militias into other areas. The government will want to maintain a strong defense of Baghdad by preserving the same posture. More likely, however, the attacks will trigger increased activities of Iraqi Shi’a militia in Baghdad in order to target ISIS sleeper cells and predominantly Iraqi Sunni areas including Adhamiyah.       

The Syrian's Dilemma

The Syrian's Dilemma

On February 13, 2014, I told Jerome MacDonald, in an interview on Worldview on Chicago Public Radio, "On the strategic level, I think that if we do not succeed in Syria,  there are so many issues over the next fifty years of American foreign policy that will be traced back to President Obama's administration."  Syrians in their search for freedom find themselves in a dilemma.  In spite the warnings about the consequences of the vacuum of power in Syria since the early stages of the militarization of the revolution, the American administration did not correctly read this warning until the fall of Mosul. There is a quasi agreement among observers that we must have ground troops to deal with ISL. The Syrian dilemma is in the answer to the question, Who will send their troops under the cover of US airpower to deal with ISL?  The short answer is "No one." Whatever the answer, the Syrian rebels are going to have the short end of the deal.  The other leg of the dilemma can be read in the absence of the word "democracy" in the last three speeches of the president. 
President Obama is framing the question solely with a military vision.  Whatever happened to the revolution for democracy, human rights, and freedom? Many Syrians see the consequences of President Obama's vision will put them on the road ending with the choice among living under a military regime the way that Egypt is governed today, or other US allied Middle Eastern Monarchies or under the Iranian occupation in the way Baghdad is controlled by the Iranians today. 
The road as we see it today shows that the members (Islamists or non-Islamists) of the Syrian Revolution are going to pay dearly and vainly for the fall of ISL.  Under the absence of any international and regional guarantees or plans to help transform Syria into a real democracy, and under the total disregard of the US administration and its allies toward the original purpose of the Syrian Revolution,  delaying the commitment of the US to a real democratic Syria actually means the return of Syria to the situation before the revolution with the addition of all the consequent destruction.  Assad shall be removed in the same way that al-Malki has gone, but the Syrian Regime shall be reproduced in the same way that Mubarak's regime was reproduced.  The rebels will come out of the fight against ISL exhausted, having already lost many of its leaders.   It will be in no shape to fight against the re-cycling of the Assad regime under a different façade.  The rebel's situation shall be worse if Assad succeeds in establishing a tactical cooperation with ISL as he proved capable of during the American occupation of Iraq. 
The American administration's strategy has no regard to what the rebels want.  Regional dictators are taking care of appeasing them and bringing them into alignment by threat or by elimination of all dissenting opinions in the rows of the revolution.  Even if the rebels succeed to reach a consensus on the return to the non-violent revolution (an idealistic and farfetched assumption) and stand neutral between the regime, ISL and the USA, the rebels have no guarantee that in such an environment they will not turn into the weakest link in a conflict governed only by the power of fire.  The US administration's discourse ignores the real reason behind the strength of ISL.  This discourse announces publicly its rejection of the Assad regime but at the same time believes that the changes to Baghdad's regime needed to fight ISL are of a cosmetic nature.  My argument here might feel "paranoid" for some.  However, President Obama is aware of the consequences of his strategy on the people of the region and their democratic inspiration.  If he believes that Somalia and Yemen were "American success stories," I hate to inform him that the Syrians have not revolted  in the hopes of turning their country into neither Somalia  nor Yemen. In one word, a comprehensive vision for a free and  democratic Middle East can make the Syrian people true and dependable allies to US foreign policy. 

Mohyeddin Kassar

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Interview on Public Radio

Interview on Public Radio
مقابلة على الراديو الوطني الأمريكي
Listen to the interview